By Taylor Hartz
Published Jan. 16, 2018
New Eastsiders met with officers from their local police beat for the first time this year on Jan. 11.
The district’s first Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy – or CAPS – beat meeting of 2018 took place in the community room inside the 400 E. Randolph Street building. About 30 residents gathered to discuss their concerns in the new year and follow up on issues addressed at previous CAPS meetings, including growing homeless populations in Pritzker Park and drag racing on Lower Wacker Drive.
The monthly CAPS meetings, which aim to improve communication between residents and local law enforcement, will alternate between the Randolph Street location, and 130 N. Garland Ct.
The meeting kicked off by addressing concerns about the growing homeless population in Pritzker Park, a concern that was discussed in length at the last CAPS meeting, held in November.
Dombrowski said Chicago Police are addressing this issue by looking into putting new cameras in the area, an idea Dombrowski said is supported by Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd).
The Chicago Police Department (CPD) and nearby John Marshall Law School already have security cameras in the area, said Dombrowski, but CPD is looking into adding some that are more visible to potential criminals.
Dombrowski said he thinks new, prominent cameras will be more effective.
“If people don’t realize they’re being recorded, they’re less likely to alter their behaviors,” said Dombrowski.
At previous CAPS meetings, officers have told residents that police can prevent individuals from panhandling or sleeping in Chicago Park District areas, but can’t do much else to keep them homeless individuals from gathering on public property.
Dombrowski told residents that Chicago police will always address reported crimes involving these populations, but reminded residents that “homelessness isn’t illegal.”
“Every homeless person is an individual person who has a whole life history as for why they’re in the position they’re in,” Dombrowski said, “unfortunately, there is no blanket solution.”
While the Pritzker Park issue may not have been resolved since the last CAPS meetings, residents were pleased that other issues were. Although it may mostly have to do with the extreme cold weather, drag racing seems so have slowed, if not stopped completely.
In place of the drag racing, though, was another concern of fast drivers.
One resident said that cars have been speeding on Lower Harbor Drive, where many New Eastsiders walk their dogs during inclement weather since the area is covered. The resident also noted that a few traffic lights in the area are out.
The resident said she had reported the issue a few times and was frustrated that the lights hadn’t been fixed, she also suggested adding speed bumps to the drive. Dombrowski said he would look into the issues raised.
Another repeat topic raised by Sgt. Dombrowski was the concern of theft in the area.
Police warned residents again of the dangers of leaving their bags on the backs of their chair at restaurants or bars, of leaving valuables on the seats of their cars and of walking with cellphones in hand.
When walking, especially in the evening, Dombrowski said that it may feel safer to have your cell phone out in case of an emergency, but having your cell in hand may make you a target.
Overall in the district, Dombrowski said thefts and other crime levels had remained steady, and started to decrease slightly.
The CPD is planning to increase the number of officers guarding New Eastside streets as the population in the area increases. With several new residential buildings being proposed for the area – though those plans are currently on hold – the population may soon be increasing by a few thousand. Dombrowski assured residents that as the New Eastside neighborhood grows, so will the police force protecting it.
“We are hiring new officers as fast as we can,” said Dombrowski, who said the process can often take quite a while as new recruits go through training.
Dombrowski said that bicycle units are “increasing their numbers dramatically” and that the number of officers on foot will also grow.
The sargent said the CPD will be hosting a recruitment drive on Feb 1st and that residents should expect to see a lot of new, young officers added to the local force.
According to Dombrowski, the CPD is also looking to hire a civilian community organizer, and said that community relations between CPD and New Eastsiders will be even more of a priority going forward.
The next CAPS meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 8, and will be held at 130 N. Garland Ct.